By Steve Neavling
Motor City Muckraker
When a protester taunted Donald Trump at a rally in Cadillac, Mich., on Friday, the Republican frontrunner called for his arrest.
“I would arrest him for a filthy, dirty mouth,” Trump told police as the man was escorted out of the building. “And then we’ll see what his mommy and daddy say when they have to go and bail him out.”
Trump, who regularly cites the Constitution to support his arguments and often resorts to hateful rhetoric to demean his foes, seemingly has little knowledge of – or respect for – the First Amendment rights of those who oppose him.
Trump might be wise to brush up on constitutional law and Michigan’s own famous case involving a canoeist who was convicted in 1999 of violating an antiquated law that prohibited “vulgar language” in front of women and children. That conviction was later overturned by the Michigan Court of Appeals on the grounds that it was unconstitutional to ban such speech.
Finally, in December 2015, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill that eliminated numerous outdated laws, including the prohibition on swearing in public.
“Modernizing state government is an ongoing effort,” Snyder said after signing the bill. “I appreciate the work of the legislature in analyzing the criminal code and eliminating statutes that no longer make sense in the 21st century.”
The U.S. Supreme Court also has ruled in several cases that the use of profane language is generally not a punishable form of speech.
Nevertheless, Trump supporters, oddly, chanted “USA, USA, USA!” in response to the Republican’s call for the protester’s arrest.
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.